The Salt Lake Chamber’s Opportunity Coalition is creating pathways out of poverty
Long before the pandemic started, businesses across the state were having difficulty finding workers due to the tight labor market. Currently, two-thirds of Utahns are concerned about the workforce shortage, and fewer people are participating in the economy than before the pandemic. And yet, the state’s job growth and unemployment numbers show that our economy is still one of the strongest in the nation—meaning there is opportunity out there for businesses and people looking for work.
To help address this challenge, the Salt Lake Chamber’s nonprofit social impact foundation Utah Community Builders (UCB) has created a new initiative called the Opportunity Coalition. This coalition will bring together businesses (specifically those with workforce shortages in entry- and mid-level jobs), Utahns who have been trapped in a cycle of poverty, and community partners that provide vital resources and support for work, education, and long-term success.
The best pathway out of poverty is through stable, meaningful work. With the abundance of opportunities for employment in Utah businesses, the private sector is well-positioned to lead. The Opportunity Coalition initiative seeks to foster upward mobility by removing barriers and developing stronger social capital connections between businesses and Utahns in poverty. The ultimate goal is to help Utahns in poverty access opportunities for jobs, increase their skills, and move toward self-sufficiency.
In the coming months, UCB will work to identify the most impactful barriers to work for Utahns in poverty through a combination of focus groups, roundtable discussions, and informal polls. Strengthening technical and soft skills through training resources, fortifying social capital, and identifying these barriers will be integral steps to creating more opportunities for Utah’s high-poverty zip codes. This approach will be part of a new, actionable, best practices guide for businesses to foster upward mobility in their own workforces.
The story of Utah is one of nationally-renowned upward economic mobility. By shining a light on the pockets of our economy where Utahns are still striving to fully realize this opportunity—and businesses struggle to fill needed jobs—we are enlisting the private sector to address a great issue of our time.
Here are a few simple ways businesses can get involved with this effort right away:
- Take the Opportunity Jobs Survey
Take the Opportunity Jobs Survey on the Salt Lake Chamber’s website
(slchamber.com/opportunity-survey) to help us better understand the workforce shortage that businesses face and identify opportunities available to Utahns.
- Participate in the Opportunity Coalition
If your organization is committed to strengthening upward mobility for Utahns in poverty, join the Opportunity Coalition. Involvement from the community will help to remove
barriers to work, strengthen social capital and skills resources, and equip businesses with the data and tools to be upwardly-mobile employers.
- Provide Support
Help drive awareness of how the private sector can enhance upward mobility by sponsoring virtual or in-person events like roundtables, panel discussions, and press events, and by supporting engagement efforts like podcasts, videos, and articles.
Intergenerational poverty is sustained with a gravity most cannot understand. Businesses can help fellow Utahns escape this vicious cycle. The Opportunity Coalition is just one way we can do this—all of us have a role to play in helping others escape poverty and create new opportunities for success. But to instill social capital into our community, we can start by infusing our businesses with the lens of helping others rise through upward mobility and success.